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04.28.09

Patents Roundup: Bad, Destructive System; Microsoft and Apple Revisited

Posted in America, Apple, Asia, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 10:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: News about patents and patentors that affect GNU/Linux

Broken System

UNREST CAUSED by this broken patent system is beginning to be better realised as bubbles are bursting and real assets get appreciated more than paper. In regard to ownership of areas in mathematics (notably with software patents), SD Time reports that “experts mull changes to [the] software patent process” and Professor Moglen is among those who are quoted on the subject:

“These so-called patents grant ownership rights over ideas that have no reflection in the physical world other than ‘I own the math,’ ” said Eben Moglen, founder of the Software Freedom Law Center and a professor of law at Columbia Law School. “If everyone goes looking for more in a game of phony real estate, hell will follow.”

Moving on and looking elsewhere, we find even broader complaints that public knowledge is gradually being scooped up and privatised.

The phrase ‘or protection through established means’ is the most troubling, because it ignores of the decades old success of FOSS, Free Open Source Software, in the computer industry, and of the history of science itself which regarded knowledge as a commons, until the recent incursion of Thatcherite economics. Both of these are more far more ‘established’ than the recent American fad for software patents.

Destructive System

Like all broken systems (such as the banking industry nowadays), there are victims and it is not pleasant. Here is the end of one pointless never-ending fight where almost a billion dollars will be paid as a result.

The vicious fight between Broadcom and Qualcomm over patents has resulted in peace breaking out, worldwide.

[...]

Qualcomm will shell out $891 million to Broadcom over a four year period and the terms of the agreement are as follows.

It’s becoming more than a national issue if and when, as The Economist suggests, a rising superpower like China mimics the behaviour seen abroad and starts suing companies across the border.

Chinese companies are enforcing patents against foreign firms

FOR over a decade Schneider Electric of France has bombarded a Chinese firm, Chint Group, with lawsuits accusing it of copying its technology. But the tables turned on April 15th when the two companies settled an infringement case—with the French firm forking over $23m to Chint. The rich settlement against a foreign firm is a landmark. It serves as a reminder that Chinese companies are just as eager to defend patents as Western firms, and that China’s intellectual-property regime has been tightened in recent years.

This is not the first time that The Economist warns about patent wars in China.

Microsoft

One of the pro-Microsoft bloggers — one which InformationWeek employs to be precise — is now arguing that Microsoft is falsely claiming “innovation” when in fact it's just a term that Microsoft executives are being tamed to recite.

Microsoft Product Improvement Is Not Innovation

[...]

Wow. To those who say that there are no Microsoft fans, the messages from my last blog entry prove you wrong. One of the complaints was my assertion that Microsoft does not innovate anymore; perhaps the problem is in the definition of that word. To me, slow but steady improvement in existing products and services isn’t innovation, it’s maintenance and support. Those are important things, no doubt, especially to existing customers, but they’re not the same as innovation.

LinuxToday brought back the essay called “InNOTvators.”

Episode one: Whatcha talkin’ about, Vincent?

Vincent David’s lonely quest to protect an innovative world from the clutches of free software.

News Item: Microsoft Platforms Group Vice President Jim Allchin says that Open Source software stifles innovation and threatens Intellectual Property.

The scene: A table for two at Dale’s Dry Donut Deli, No Dunking Allowed, somewhere in lower left middle Montana, early, early morning. Across the table sits Vincent David, former Manager of Wildly Implausible Conspiracy Theories at Microsoft’s Redmond HQ.

Microsoft’s Friends

Not only Microsoft is trying to use software patents against its competition’s right to exist. Blackboard, which was funded by Microsoft, is doing the same type of thing [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7], but it has just suffered a setback:

In Preliminary Ruling, Patent Office Rejects Blackboard’s Claims

[...]

Some observers say that even if Blackboard ultimately loses the patent battle, it will have succeeded in distracting and weakening its rival through the lengthy court proceedings.

Another ally of Microsoft is the British Library [1, 2]. A reader has just warned us that they too promote intellectual monopolies and he sent us the following photo to prove it (from 2007).

British Library

Apple

Apple may be portrayed as a “pirate” or even a victim at the moment, but Apple is to a large extent part of this problem. Right now it claims to have ‘innovated’ Web silencing because there is a patent filing.

Apple wants to give you the opportunity to selectively block web-based audio while allowing you to listen to any other audio source of your choosing.

The EFF is meanwhile assaulting Apple for antagonising customers’ rights.

The operator of a wiki website has filed a federal lawsuit that accuses Apple of trying to squelch protected speech after it demanded the removal of posts discussing ways hobbyists can make iPods and iPhones work with software other than iTunes.

Apple — like Microsoft — has already used patents offensively against Linux or Linux-powered devices. Intimidation too is a form of aggression.

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